Where Are the Healers? A Lament

heart balloon art

It is possible that moving to the country from the city was one of the worst decisions my family ever made. We moved from a place where my younger son was invited to so many birthday parties that I had to keep a closet stocked with last-minute gifts to a place where he managed to go through most of elementary school without being invited to a single one.

Of course, the fact that he has two sets of grandparents, three uncles, three aunts and three cousins here in our little town made up for it. Being surrounded by loving family can help to make up for the rejection of peers and even their parents.

Alas, this was my fantasy and not reality. No family member has taken much of an interest in my son — to the point where it simply wouldn’t matter where we live when it comes to his interactions with them.

Once the S disease showed its face, I noticed that it helped my son to be around people who distracted him from what was happening in his mind. Desperate, I became bold.

“Will you take Younger Son fishing with you the next time you go?” I asked one family member. “Why not include Younger Son the next time you decide to spend a day in (neighboring city). He would love that!” I suggested to another.

Nothing changed.

Next, I tried guilt.

“Why don’t you ever spend time with your grandson?” I asked my parents.

They didn’t fall for it. Nothing has changed.

More desperate still, I asked people at the house church I was attending. I said something like, “Younger Son really needs connections with other people, role models. Will someone consider taking him under their wing a bit?”

I wish I’d never asked that question. Coping with my grief over the lack of response has been difficult.

I have a friend who has a son who is emotionally disturbed. They don’t ask for help. I used to think this was perhaps prideful, but now realize it is probably realistic on their part.

Here’s the thing. There are any number of Christians who are happy to lay hands on my son and pray for him. I appreciate this. Prayer is powerful.

But.

When you pray for bonds to be broken and healing to take place, God often answers prayers. He is a miraculous God, and sometimes He does things in mysterious ways.

Often, though, He is quite practical. He uses the people in His church as his hands and feet to accomplish His goals. He uses their love.

He sent me and my son a friend who hugs my son. She includes him in some of her plans. She even buys him little gifts. There is now a third person in his life who demonstrably loves him.

I am thankful for this. Oh boy, am I thankful. I wonder though, what if even more people loved my son in a visible way? I know that love heals.

I’ve been reading the diary of George Fox, the man who inadvertently founded the Quakers — some of the few Christians in the United States who actively resisted the institution of slavery. Fox frequently went into the churches in England and asked “Where is your fruit?”

I relate to Fox, because that is just how I feel.

The fruit of Christians should be healing love and not rejection. What if every Christian in our communities welcomed someone who is hurting into his or her life? Can you imagine the difference this would make?

In my town of 30,000, there are probably 10,000 people who attend church. These folks diligently give to food banks, the homeless ministry and other worthy causes. There are so many volunteers at our homeless shelter that it is ridiculous — they hardly have any slots to squeeze new ones in. Yet when I drive past the homeless shelter, the homeless people are always sitting outside the building alone.

No one should ever be alone in the midst of Christians.

Oh what a difference we could make if we gave ourselves over to action to complement our belief.

The lovely print is available for sale on Etsy — click on photo.

Vision of Hell

When my son had his vision of heaven, that wasn’t the only thing he saw. He told me that God also showed him hell. The reason was that he would then see why missionary work was so important.

Hell wasn’t like the popular depictions we see in cartoons or movies. It had streets, and there were rich people and poor people. There were demons, however, and there was torture.

In some ways it sounded a lot like earth, only with the evil and pain made more visible.

He saw a divide between heaven and hell. He told me that people could cross over from hell to heaven.

“How do they do that?” I asked.

“The people who are in heaven LOVE them until they can cross over,” he said.

I’m aware this is not considered to be a biblical concept. However, in recent days I’ve thought about that vision. Whether it is literal or not, it contains truth.

vision of hell

If we love people here on earth, they too can learn to love and be a part of God’s kingdom. And it’s really hard for people to love others if they haven’t themselves been loved. So we have to show them.

It has a snowball effect.

If everyone loved like Jesus said for us to, there would be no more war, no more gangs, no more bullying. All kinds of hell would be wiped out.

I think this is the main thing we need to remember. All this arguing people do about how to worship God and so on is ridiculous. The command is simple.

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’There is no commandment greater than these.”

I believe Jesus was God made visible. He showed us how to be. Then He left. He gave us the task of being him in the world. Therefore, we have no excuse for being anything but loving — loving people out of hell and into the Kingdom.

He Answered the Phone

Bob Goff Love Does

I cannot recommend this read highly enough.

I’ve really been enjoying the weather these past few days. My younger son and I have been lying out in the sun while the dog gets muddy in the creek. I’ve been reading Bob Goff’s wonderful tome Love Does to him. It has mud splatters all of the pages now from the dog racing around wildly from the joy of being free to play in the creek.

I saw that Goff had put his number in the back of the book with an invitation to call him if anyone wanted to talk about ideas. I took him up on it.

I told my son, who was laying on the ground toying with a piece of grass, “I wonder what will happen if I call this number?”

No way did I ever think he was going to answer the phone. I thought perhaps there’d be an answering machine with a friendly invitation to leave a message about the idea I liked the best. Something like that. But no, he answered. One the first ring, no less, with a jolly, “Hello, this is Bob!”

So I asked him about his Bible Doing groups. He told me how the idea was to spend less time agreeing with what Jesus said and more time doing it. I agreed. He told me that his group had been together for a few years and that they didn’t spend a whole lot of time talking about doing things, but went and actually did stuff.

When the call ended, I was all excited. I told my son, “I just talked to the author of this awesome book!” Keep in mind that for a writer, getting to chat with a New York Times bestselling author is a bit like a normal person getting hang out with Brad Pitt for a while.

My kid just looked at me and kinda rolled his eyes.

I’m excited though. A few other people are on board with this idea, and instead of meeting at my house on Mondays, we’re going to meet at Java Jacks at 6:30. Maybe we’ll move it to living rooms after people are comfortable with one another.

I can’t wait to see how Jesus will pour out of our lives.

Laying it Down for Love

pure religion is this

I hope yesterday’s post didn’t come across as arrogant. Because I don’t know all the answers. I don’t even know a few of them. I just have this overwhelming feeling that I need to somehow break free of the culture — go barefoot, live in a tent in the desert, pour myself into something else besides my mortgage and the bills I ran up while not knowing how to celebrate Christmas.

Sometimes I feel angry because it’s so hard. I always imagine myself dismantling culture — taking apart the scaffolding that holds it all together and seeing what lies underneath. Living that thing, whatever it turns out to be.

I’d like to ditch the anger and live entirely in love. I definitely need to quit worrying about what other people are doing and focus on living my life in the manner God directs.

Today, my eyes lit upon a verse in the book of John. I’ll bet you’ve heard it before.

My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love have no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.

Whoa.

First of all, it’s a command. From God.

Next, Jesus says to love as He loved us. Frankly, that part blows my mind.

Finally, he tells us that love is laying down our lives.

When I read that last one, the first thing that comes to mind is throwing myself in front of bus while knocking someone else out of the way. I don’t think that’s what He meant, though. At least not entirely. I think He means that we are also to give up our lives in this sense:

For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. Matthew 16:25

Life perhaps partially being that temporal comforts with which we surround ourselves. Our house, our car, our grandmother’s Persian carpet. Our dreams for the future. Our present activities.

So if I’m right, and this is even a little bit what He means, then I should be willing to lay it down if it will show love to a brother or sister. Maybe it can be picked up again later, maybe not. And yeah, maybe it even means jumping in front of a bus. Although I’d rather not.

I think this is how people are able to live in mud huts after having grown up in suburbia. It’s how people can risk their lives spreading the gospel in New Guinea. It’s the reason a lawyer chooses to represent the poor instead of raking in six figures in corporate law. These people have laid down their lives for Love.

I want the same. Because ultimately, we all lose this life whether we want to or not.

Photo credit: Public Domain Photos

How to Be a Shaman

how to be a shaman
My older son is a shaman. Note that I am not pleased by this. I’d rather that he be, oh, a human rights lawyer or an organic farmer. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to choose.

He didn’t become a shaman all by himself. He was offered free training all around the world. He learned about herbs and witchcraft in Portland, Oregon. He got training in yoga and meditation in Crestone, Colorado and Fairfield, Iowa. Eventually he went to Columbia and Peru, where he received even more education, learning how to use hallucinaginic plants to access the spirit world.

All of this was completely free. As far as I know, he never paid a cent to learn any of this stuff. These days, he teaches other people how to meditate and do magick.

The people who taught him knew how to make disciples. He told me about people who had built extremely low-cost meditation centers using their own hands and community to complete the work. He described extraordinarily welcoming communities. At this point, he makes very little income, yet manages to continue to travel the world due to the hospitality of those he encounters.

I do not see most Christians making the effort to teach others the way of Jesus that I saw these other folks expend to teach my son these other things.

Do we use our hands and energy to build churches where all are welcome? Not so much in America. No, we take out mortgages and fund-raise money right out of the hands of the poor so that we can purchase better sound equipment.

Do we freely raise up leaders who will themselves go and make disciples of Jesus? Nope, not usually. Our Christian leaders — the ones we tend to respect the most — go to expensive seminaries, going into debt and ransoming their ability to heed the call of Christ to minister to the poor, to give as has freely be given.

I thought that perhaps I was being a bit cynical, that there were indeed seminaries that offered free or at least extremely affordable tuition. I typed “free seminary” into Google and got a paid result from Liberty University — an establishment that is not only not free of charge, but that charges more for an online education than many bricks and mortar universities. To have come up in the paid search results, they needed to have purchased those keywords — “free seminary.” They lied.

I saw one website that offered online information for free, but otherwise, nada. That’s okay, because leaders should be raised up out of the local church or by the Holy Spirit, or so I believe.

Is not charging to learn the word of God a bit like (or a lot like) doing business in the temple?

My anger at our culture knows no bounds today. Christian schools? Why do they charge tuition? If these folks truly believe that the unsaved are bound for hell, why are teachers not donating their time, living in concrete block houses with well-water and candles to devote their lives to educating our children and making disciples?

No, instead, we have enclaves of Christians who segregate themselves from the larger world. Who must have a certain amount of money to be in the club.

I am enraged.

Is this what Jesus wanted? Really??

I admire the heck out of people who go to live in third world conditions to care for AIDS patients, educate children and spread the gospel. Why don’t we do that here? What is it about living in the United States that blinds us to what is important?

I know that we have food banks, homeless shelters and other programs. But we need more than that. We need a massive shift where we refuse to allow any child in our community to grow up without experiencing the love of Jesus, for example.

So what am I doing? I am at a bit of a loss, to tell you the truth. This is a feeling that makes me feel uncomfortably hypocritical. I am looking for a group of people to do what author and Christ-follower Bob Goff calls “Bible Doing” as opposed to “Bible Study,” or what Goff uncharitably calls “stalking Jesus.”

I’m hoping that the support of like-minded people will help us all to break free of the tiny paradigm in which we view our lives and possibilities. It will be on Monday nights at 6:30 in my living room, if you’re interested.

Vision of God or Schizophrenic Hallucination?

rainbow around the throne of God

This will never look the same.

I will never ever forget what my younger son told me when he was twelve. He said that he had visited heaven and had a talk with God. God had even given him a tour.

He went into a lot of detail. He described how God’s face cannot be seen because it is such bright white light. He said he saw Jesus, and that there were marks on his wrists. He told me how there are colors that can’t be seen in this world, and that there is a feeling of such indescribable peace that there are no worries or fear whatsoever. He talked to my Uncle Bob, whom he has never met. He saw hell because God wanted him to know it was real. God let him know that Love saves people from hell.

At the time, I was understandably thrown for a loop. Sage grew up fairly obsessed with Pokemon cards and being read the stories of Brer Rabbit, not the Bible — a fact I am not proud of. I had no idea where all this was coming from. It seemed odd content for a hallucination that would arise out of prior knowledge or interests.

I told his doctor about it, and he told me about the book If Heaven Is for Real. I told my mom about it, and she mentioned the same book. I bought it.

It is about a 4-year-old boy who sees heaven during a life-threatening surgery. I’ve always been pretty skeptical about these things, and it wasn’t on my reading list.

The book was a quick read, and after I finished it, I remember lying on the bed feeling almost paralyzed. I called Sage into the room. Having read about how the boy saw a rainbow around the throne of God, I asked, “Did God sit down?”

My son said, yes, he was sitting on a throne. “What did it look like?” I asked. He told me about how a rainbow went around it.

At that point, I my mind did a flip and I started to feel really afraid. My son said, “There is a dark presence in this room. God wanted me to tell you that we are going to be in a very large spiritual battle.”

Note that I don’t recall discussing things like spiritual battles with my son at that point. I remember I had just started attending church, after the dream he had where he was quoting the Book of Revelation to me.

So there it is.

I’m convinced this was a true spiritual vision — God forgive me if I’m wrong. I really think that if all this was only neurologically based, then the vision would have been of something else entirely. Like Pokemon characters. But no, his visions have never had that sort of content. It is always God, Jesus, angels, demons, and things like exploding nuclear bombs and parched earth.

We don’t watch the news and never have. We don’t have television since I discovered that watching it was causing him to stutter several years ago. So I can’t attribute this to something he had watched a few days prior.

I am so thankful for this. This vision caused me to completely desire to follow Jesus, to give my life to God. I count myself as very fortunate, as my intellectualism had set up many arguments against much in the Bible being literally true. Being a part of this experience has forced me to put my feeble human arguments aside and simply praise God that he permitted me to see.

And he that sat was to look upon like a jasper and a sardine stone: and there was a rainbow round about the throne, in sight like unto an emerald. Revelation 4:3

Is Your Reality a Prison?

So beautiful, but ultimately incomparable to the lushness of a living tree.

So beautiful, but ultimately incomparable to the lushness of a living tree.

I’ve been reading C.S. Lewis’s The Weight of Glory. It blows my mind, really.

In it, he talks about how what we see is so limited compared to what is real. He tells this story:

There’s a woman, an artist, who is pregnant and imprisoned in a tiny cell. The cell has a tiny sliver of a window high above. The tiniest glimpse of sky is visible.

She gives birth. The son grows up seeing nothing but the gray walls of the prison cell. Of course, she wants her son to know what the outer world is like, so she spends her days sketching trees, rivers, animals and other aspects of the physical world.

One day, her son makes a remark that indicates he believes the outer world is made up of lines like the ones his mother made on the paper. When she tries to explain, that no, reality is gorgeous and three-dimensional, he appears skeptical. It is beyond his imagination.

We are like this boy. If it is not visible, not proven by a law of physics, not experienced by us directly, then we cannot believe it is real.

Are we really that unimaginative? Are our minds really that small?

Well, yes. I think we should be more humble about just how limited our capacity to understand the nature of universe actually is. Isn’t it arrogant, really, to believe that we understand even one percent of what is actually going on?

So when people claim that visions are nothing more that neurons misfiring, or that demons are a product of an ancient and outdated mindset, I question that. Just because we are now aware of neurons doesn’t mean we have any idea why they behave the way they do, for example.

My mind has been opened to all sorts of possibilities, and it was not because I wanted it to be. I was quite content in my ignorance, although not happy.

I’ve learned that truly having an open mind doesn’t just mean having the desire to understand other people’s perspectives. It means that my mind is open to the idea that we just might not know very much at all, and that God has far more to teach me than any classroom could begin to offer.

And I love that God’s kingdom is so much more lush than anything I can see.

Again he said, “What shall we say the kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe it? It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest of all seeds on earth. Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds can perch in its shade.” Mark 4:30-32

Click on the tree to see information about the artist.

Is it Possible to Drown and Not Know it?

drowning culture

If only the danger we are in was as obvious as this tsunami.

I have so much to say.

Saturday, my friend Gen told me about a dream she had. It was so similar to dreams I’d had that I got chills and cried. I knew it was from God. (More on why I’m so convinced about that in a later post.)

So Sunday morning, I’m in church. We’re singing, and I’m sitting there thinking that I want to share this dream with the congregation. It was only the fourth time I’d attended, and I wasn’t feeling at all comfortable about it. I finally set it aside and decided not to worry about it.

Then my friend tapped me on the arm. “The pastor wants to pray for you,” she said.

He did. He prayed that I be free from caring what other people thought — not him, not my parents, friends, anyone — and that I speak God’s word clearly.

Later, I asked him why he prayed what he did, since it felt like he had read my mind. He simply told him the Holy Spirit said to pray that for me. No big deal.

So later I got up my nerve and shared the dream with the church. I’ll share it with you as well. Remember, this is Gen’s dream. I was in it, and because of my own similar dreams, I feel as though I was there.

It’s pretty simple. Gen and I were walking to a creek. There were lots of other people going as well. When we got there, there were thousands of people all waiting to cross the creek, which was threatening to overflow its banks and drown everyone.

We began to run back, but almost everyone else stayed, risking their lives because they didn’t realize how quickly they could be swept away and drown.

As we ran, we warned all the people we saw heading to the creek to turn back — that it was dangerous. The few other people who had also turned back did not bother to warn anyone.

And that is it.

The creek is our culture. We are all in danger of drowning in an massive swell of celebrity worship, porn, materialism, and so forth. Not very many people realize the spiritual danger they are in. The people who do don’t have the nerve to warn other people.

It’s easy to understand. No one wants to be told that their culture is a sewer. No one wants to think their decision to watch The Walking Dead or to listen to the latest AM hate radio show is bad for their soul. Or that buying a bunch of junk to soothe their pain isn’t helpful because they are trading their work, their life, for…nothing.

No one wants to think about the fact that porn is so ubiquitous that many parents consider it “normal” when their teenage — or younger — sons look at it on the computer.

It would make us feel bad about ourselves.

We don’t want to feel bad about our choices. We want to have high self-esteem, to feel that whatever we do is ultimately okay, that our choices are an expression of freedom.

Well. I spent most of my adult life in chains. Most of the time I couldn’t see my prison or the fact that the choices I made — including the choice not to take God seriously — were the reason I was a wreck.

Ugh.

It’s hard to talk like this. I feel like I’m inviting hate, and that’s scary. I know how I used to feel — the scorn I had for people who dared to question my choices was unmatched. I loathed people I deemed to be religious fanatics. I thought, “Who are they to use their fairy tales to question my lifestyle?”

God definitely has a sense of humor.

But I had to share this. I believe we are drowning, and it’s not love to sit back and watch.

“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. Matthew 7:13-14

A Tiny Touch of Grace

drawing

My husband.

There’s nothing quite like a yelling match with the person you love the most to make you feel like a piece of slime that needs to be cleaned out of the refrigerator’s bottom drawer.

The morning started out with my younger son telling me that no, he could not go to the “bamboo forest” on the local trail with his best friend because he felt too anxious. I’ve wrestled with agoraphobia for years, and this was not welcome news. No one wants their child to live in a box of their own mind’s making.

My mood dark, my husband and I got into a disagreement within seconds of his having got out of bed. It was the kind of disagreement where after about five minutes, one person goes outside and angrily smokes a cigarette while the other person cries and slams doors for sheer physical release.

After I finished slamming doors — yes, that was me, I don’t smoke — I got into the shower. I said a prayer. I was still crying and I didn’t say much. I did ask God to help me not to give in to hopelessness.

Then I went into the back room to draw with markers. I am like a child that way. Darkness recedes when I am using the creative part of my brain, as opposed to the mean tormented part of my brain, say.

I tried to draw a tree. It didn’t go very well. I turned the tree into a face. It turned out to be my husband’s face, and I made it into a card for him.

I think this is how miracles work — most of the time, anyway. It’s like God touched me with a bit of His grace, saying something like “It’s okay — now here’s some love you can give your husband.”

Because believe me, I was not feeling very loving when I was making scribbly marks on the paper.

The hand of God works in little ways that end up being quite big, really.

Answers in Front of My Face

raising chickens
I want to be a farmer. Seriously. I’d like to move to a few acres, build a hobbit house and plant pomegranate trees and snow peas, raise chickens and goats, become a regular at the farmer’s market.

I’ve had this desire for a while, although it seems so ridiculous that I don’t usually talk about it. I do, however, own a collection of books on alternative building, herb gardening and the like — the result of years of vicarious living.

My younger son shares this desire. He is always talking about how he wants to grow vegetables, and in fact, uses our meager front yard to grow a variety of shockingly hot peppers.

We would do more, but our backyard is a nicely landscaped brick patio, and is entirely shaded. So to implement this dream even a little bit, we’ve got to do something different. Hence my post on Facebook about how I had my eye out for three or more acres close to town.

I’m serious.

Here’s why I mean it.

Last week, my mind was stuck in a rut. I was engaging in either/or thinking and driving myself bats. I was beating myself up for looking at endless medical research and not trusting in God to help with the S disease. My talented and thoughtful friend Kelvin, however, provided some needed perspective by basically asking me why my mind was not open to God’s answers in all aspects of life — including medical research.

I have a complicated answer to that. I am an educated person who is aware of the genetic basis and many of the environmental triggers for the S disease, but am still convinced there is a spiritual component. I won’t go into it right now.

Nevertheless, Kelvin is right. His response made me think.

Of course I pray for understanding and healing of the S disease. Yesterday, I realized that God has indeed provided some answers and continues to do so.

You see, a couple of years ago, my younger son went on an extended campout with his scout troop. I remember how he came back looking tan and trim, with none of the “Aspie” affect and behaviors that he usually had. There were no dietary changes that I’m aware of, unless you count eating worse foods — like endless hot dogs and pop tarts — as a change.

The positive effect had to have come from being outside almost continuously. Being free from electronics was no doubt a factor, but it wasn’t the only one, as we’ve experimented with this at home, and have found it helpful, but nowhere near a “cure.”

We’ve even went so far as to not use electricity for a week or so, reading by candlelight in the evenings like Abe Lincoln. We thought perhaps electric lights were part of the problem. That experiment didn’t have much of an effect.

No, the outdoors is the deciding factor. I’m sure of it. Nature has a healing effect. God made us to live among the trees and in the fields, not in particleboard boxes.

So I think of my son’s request to move to the country and my own increasing desire to do so as well. And I realize that this desire is likely God’s way of nudging us towards healing. Towards eating a natural, organic, non-GMO diet. Towards getting enough sunshine and vitamin D, in which almost all people with the S disease are deficient. Towards getting more exercise. Towards health.

I do not know how to make this happen right away. I shared this epiphany with my husband, and he asked me to inquire about buying some land across the street. I did, and discovered it had already sold. But if it is supposed to happen, it will. I will keep looking.

I like how the answer to my prayers is likely already embedded in my heart.